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>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> can i hear you. >> the time for change has come. chris: on health care, there could be a cool obama compromise. even on the hot button public option but on afghanistan, the middle is a muddle. it's either fight the taliban with all we've got or clear out. making his mark. when the debate ends, will the health care fight mark a new american direction in social policy? will his call in afghanistan be a trumpet blast or a fog horn?
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the change of seasons. last november, the country bought the chase for change. we were the change we've been waiting for but this november, some say they're still waiting. can the obama white house ever be as good as his campaign? i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. katty kay covers washington for the british broadcasting corporation. howard fineman is senior washington correspondent at "newsweek." mary jordan covers politics at "the washington post." and mark whitaker is washington bureau chief for nbc news. first up, for president obama, this autumn may well the story of his first year and perhaps of his entire term. coming straight at a critical turning point from the two standout issues before the country. our future in afghanistan, and a cure for the struggling health system. first, afghanistan. a couple of months ago, the president said he knows the hard lessons of wars that failed. >> there are many lessons to be learned from la we've experienced. -- from what we've experienced. we learn america must go to war with clearly defined goals
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which is why i've ordered a review of our policy in afghanistan. chris: the president has said he does not want to commit to a long slog that takes us nowhere like in vietnam. unless he thinks we can turn things around in afghanistan, does he think we can? >> he's being asked aot of questions. and he is asking a lot of questions. and he's hearing three different points of view. he's heard from the military that the current strategy is unattainable without a large introduction of troops and being told by some people that this is never winnable. that you are never going to have an afghanistan which is stable, that is a democratic country. and then there are those who are saying actually we have no choigs. we have to win this. that the country as it stands represents such a threat to american national security that we have no choice but to win this war and that's what president obama said back in march. but there are real questions being asked i think about whether even with a big injection of troops this is a real country, a real war that you can win. and a new phrase which is floating around the white house which is minimal security. that we're not actually aiming for a country which is stable,
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that we are in control of. but we are aiming for a minimum amount of security and perhaps even a negotiated settlement with the taliban. chris: that sounds murky. mark, the president loves to say i want to avoid false choices. that there really aren't any choices. but in this case, it seems to me it's not something you can find a middle in. you either fight the taliban, protect that from the people who want to take it over or you don't and you get out. >> i think you're right but i do think that he is actually looking for a middle ground. it may be something to be concerned about. either to not give mcchrystal 40,000 troops, give him 20,000 troops. possibly to limit the time frame to say 40,000 troops but we'll give it a year or 18 months. possibly to focus it on the cities rather than the country. but you know, i think it's a little bit sort of tragic, i think, when you look at it. because i get the sense that he generally has private doubts. not just political. i think he is very concerned that the lessons of history he's been reading about vietnam in this book the lessons of disaster, really suggest that
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this may not be a winnable war. but i think as a young democratic president who has never served in the military i don't think he can say no to the generals and they have played a very rough game both privately and publicly to box him in a corner and i think it's going to be very hard for him. >> what he needs to do before he tells us what the strategy is tell people why we're there. what is the end goal here? are we really trying just to make sure that there's not a safe haven there for al qaeda? and if that's the case we don't need that many people on the ground. but there's a real morale problem. there's an aching need for people now. eight years on, what are we doing there? and this big morale, you see it on the blogs. you see it i the british press. that the soldiers both the british and the americans are kind of over there saying we're losing bomb after bomb and soldier after soldier. once he says that then we can determine how many soldiers on the ground. chris: put yourself in his position. he hears the generals who want a stronger face over there. they want more troops and want to beat the taliban. every soldier wants to win the
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fight. that's why they join up, to win. he also hears from the people who elected him at home. on the left, the net roots if you will, is he hearing that pressure? and will it count? >> he's hearing it. but i'm not sure it's going to count, at least initially. although one reason he went out to dover to pay homage to the dead soldiers coming back was to show that he understands the human cost of this and that he's aware of the moral dimension of it. in terms of losses of american lives. but my understanding from talking to the defense and intelligence people that i know, is that he's being told to look at it region by region. province by province. town by town. that's what e doing right now. -- what he's doing right now. that indicates he's going to buy into mcchrystal's numbers but explain to the american people that the reason we need more troops is not to take over and pacify and remake all of afghanistan. but to get the ethnic tribes there, all the different ethnic
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tribes, to empower them to keep al qaeda in check. now, whether that's going to sell to the american people or not, let alone the left wing of his own party, i don't know. but that's what he's going to say i think when he finally decides. >> and a real discussion about whether we go the route we did in iraq. we did negotiate with the sons of iraq. and we made the south secure because of it. it allowed us to pull back some of our troops but it does mean that you're going to have to sit down and talk with the taliban. that's a real possibility, too. that we go for some sort of political negotiated settlement rather than saying we're going to get military victory. he might call it military victory. >> but he might buy the argument that in order to sit down with all those tribes, that you've got to have boots on the ground or you've got to have strength there to be able to do it. chris: i think the way the press will cover this and all of us will and commentary will be will he give them the 40,000 troops or not? it's going to be an assessment, not a qualitative one. afghanistan may be the president's biggest foreign policy decision. at home he has put health care at the center. >> i understand that the politically safe move would be
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to kick the can further down the road. i still believe we can do great things and that here and now we will meet history's test. chris: howard, the one advantage in this case is we know there's so many compromises. because they have been laid out for us. we've heard them relentlessly. anyone who reads the papers or watches television. they will either do an outright public option, which seems unlikely. an opt out if you don't want it, and opt in if you do want it or some kind of trigger if something else doesn't work. it seems to me harry reid as dull as he seems at times, seems to have a plan here for a fallback to some solution. >> that's right. and the only word that you used in that that was -- shouldn't have been in there is the word either. because they're going to do bits and pieces of everything. they're worried about taxing the cadillac plans. ok. they will only tax the mercedes plans and not the cadillac plans. worrying about taxing millionaires, only tax people with two million. you talk about public option, it will be an opt out, an opt in.
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chris: and throwing in a co-op. >> there will be so many magic words. you were on the hill. they call these magic words. there will be so many magic words in this enormous bill to get it through. >> a win for the white house. chris: that's the point -- >> they will have something to say we did it. chris: mark, to get to a win, is the president merely -- merely has to say that there's a future probably for a public option at some point? a trigger, whatever you call it? will that keep the left happy to keep them aboard? >> right now we're still in the process of getting these bills out of the house and out of the senate. he had to keep the public option in some form alive just to get the votes on both sides. but i agree wh you. in the end that we're probably headed toward a trigger. actually olympia snowe is going around town and her staff is saying trigger is more robust than the opt in or opt out. i won't get into the details here. mary says, look, just project forward a few months. if he gets a bill which i think we all would agree is likely, all of a sudden it will change the narrative of this presidency. people are going to say he
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accomplished something that f.d.r. couldn't accomplish, that l.b.j. couldn't accomplish, that nixon couldn't accomplish, that bill clinton couldn't accomplish. and all of a sudden in the rear-view mirror, all of this messiness actually is going -- chris: we'll get to the real politics in the second part of this program. and i mean the whole question of strategy. but he -- a point that's almost driven us crazy. like harry reid, harry the -- carry the ball. is that mart? >> it may be i've been like you all over cable tv saying how come he isn't out there pounding away at this? he ought to do it like ronald reagan and have four points and pound -- chris: right. >> that's not barack obama. one of his great qualities, whether you like him or not, is patience. and he's playing -- chris: howard, is he smarter than us? >> of course he is. much smarter. chris: let's go to the bottom line. the matthews meter, 12 of our regulars, which two huge turning point issues, health care or afghanistan, will be more consequential to barack obama's presidential legacy.
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it's a tough question. and when they are tough, we are split. it's so interesting. katty, you say afghanistan down the road of history is -- his decision on this, whether a trumpet blast, that says we're going in or we're getting out, where it's a fog horn, hoort way, will be more important? >> because afghanistan comes the next electio will still be an ongoing problem. and i think because of the reasons you have been saying about the health care bill, we'll end up with something that's rather messy and rather a fudge and the white house will declare a victory but i'm not sure in five years' time whether we'll look back and say this was a definitive bill as people would have liked. chris: howard, you say health care. >> it's the war he chose to fight. and you are judged on the basis of the wars you choose. afghanistan was already there. he had a messy situation to deal with. this is something he picked. and if he screws it up, then he will pay the consequences both politically and in history. chris: let me ask you about afghanistan. is his decision, which he's going to make in the next couple of weeks, perhaps even sooner, is it going to sound more like a hawkish position like we're going to fight the
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taliban? or is it -- does it seem more like a long goodbye, like we're gradually going to get out there and just fight the terrorists? >> i think it's going to sound more like the hawkish position. whatever the final rums and i agree -- final numbers and i agree. >> most of the numbers that mcchrystal asks for. >> he won't sound hawkish but be siding with the generals and say there's a reason they're doing it and it's not flourishing democracy but it's to make it -- al qaeda never, ever be able to do this. chris: you're still leading in that numeric direction. >> five of the generals. chris: we have to ask the other question, health care. let's get back to that. will there be a trigger on the public option? >> yes. ere will be a trigger. >> yes. >> many triggers. >> yeah, i think there's an argument -- chris: a trigger for a public option down the road and a hawkish foreign policy on afghanistan. before we break, and this is -- a palate cleaner. an hbo documentary is coming out, by the people, the election of barack obama and
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airs this coming tuesday. the first anniversary of barack obama's presidential victory. it's a behind the scenes look at the campaign. i think you're going to lov this great phone bank scene coming up. imagine being this kid just getting had i feet wet in meet the people politics. this kid is 9 years old. >> barbara -- pime a volunteer -- i'm a volunteer with the spame campaign. -- with the obama campaign. how are you? >> obama is the candidate running for president. obama. >> he's the candidate running for president. >> he's a candidate running for president. of the united states of america. no. hillary is running for president. obama -- hope you have a
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wonderful day. chris: i love the fact that he sa have a wonderful day. but in the meantime he had written the word "crazy" next to that person's name. anyway, that hbo film is this tuesday at 9:00. and when we come back, exactly a year since president obama won the white house, that genius camign, that victory over hillary and bill and then the historic first election of an african-america does this white house have the compass that campaign had? plus scoops and predictions from the notebooks of these top reporters. we'll be right back.
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chris: welcome back. it's the first anniversary of barack obama's historic win. the campaign ran for nearly two years from the announcement on that frigid day in springfield, illinois, on lincoln's birthday, 2007, all the way to that warm night in grant park
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victory. in november, 2008. obama beat the bill and hillary clinton machine. he held on to the long primary season itself and then made history beating john mccain even in many states that george bush had swept. obama credited his team. >> to my campaign manager, david -- [applause] the unsung hero of this campai, to my chief strategist, david axelrod. who's been a partner with me every step of the way. to the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics. you made this happen. and i am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done. chris: howard, my friend, governing is harder than campaigning. is it not? >> it is. and i covered that campaign and did see that movie.
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and it reminded me just how precisely and crisply and perfectly in retrospect that campaign was run. governing is much different. much more complicated. and i think number one, barack obama does not have a david plum person who can oversee the whole thing and pluff did. chris: and focused on winning -- -- the college graduates -- >> but that was checkers. this is three dimensional chess. he had the biggest economic crisis the world had seen since the depression. he has big ambitions that he's piled on top of it. to switch my metaphors it's like the olympicings. obama is the diver who wants to do the dive of the greatest degrees of difficulty. and he doesn't have the structure, nobody could have the structure to allow him to take on all the things simultaneously that he's trying to take on. health care, rewriting financial regulation, wars in afghanistan and iraq, global climate change. so the ambitions are big. no structure could do it and it does sometimes seem confused.
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>> i went down to florida this week speaking to a group of college students who had all campaigned for barack obama. and i was asking them, a year on, what do you think about how he's performing? it was really interesting because they still love the man. but they're very worried about how he's doing politically and whether he's being dragged by forces in washington. and you know what they do? they don't blame it on obama. they blame it on washington and in order to get anything done, we still think he will do the things we want, gay rights, health care, environment, but he's been dragged down by congress and they're blaming congress for this. >> during the campaign, when people raised this question of is obama this legislator ready to run the country? people said, well, he ran a great campaign. that's aroxy so he can run something big. the person who ran that is pluf, the one person from the campaign who's not in the administration. right now. chris: is rahm emanuel as good as pluf? >> there's nobody in the inner circle now who has an experience as an executive. and not just running a big
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organization. but how to exercise power. maybe larry somers who ran harvard. but that didn't turn out very well. and that is not something that you can just figure out intellectly. it's something you have to have done to do it. >> it's worth taking a step back and he will be judged on his presidency at the end of four years, not after the end of one year. and all of the things he's started in process, if there is major health care reform, if there's an afghan strategy that shows some signs of success we would be having a different conversation in four years' time. >> and tell people what we're fighting for over there, that will be a win. chris: and these kids down in florida, not to be the old guy about it, they've never watched government before. they don't know that it is slow. and you want to understand government, watch the florida recount for five weeks. because that's government. >> and they said we have to have patience. >> he's very patient. and he plays the -- deep inside game. i think. we'll see. chris: the people critical of him including young people who have a right, if -- went out and voted for him.
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can you ever as a president lead an outside movement the way you can as a candidate? once you go inside and negotiate, you have to give up on gitmo and -- >> and trying to be a unifier. you have to get everybody under. chris: can you lead a movement from inside? >> i think you probably can. i think you can still have that -- >> you have to do both. you have to negotiate on the inside but you have to run a crusade on the outside. that the way reagan did it. chris: can he be the leader etches in the campaign? >> -- he was in the campaign? >> i think there are two sides of barack obama. one side is the crusader during the campaign and also seeing the inside player now. i think it's -- chris: when we come back, scoops and predictions from the notebooks of these top reporters. tell me something i don't know. we'll be right back.
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chris: welcome back. katty, tell me something i don't know. >> the primary race in florida is very interesting between the conservative markio rubio and governor crist. if jeb bush jumps in which he might do early next summer because no point doing it quite yet, then i think rubio has a real chance of winning the nomination for that. chris: to back rubio. >> to back rubio. chris: howard. >> assuming a health care bill passes and obama signs it, conservatives are going to sue. they're going to say that the individual mandate to get health insurance is unconstitutional and actually they may have a claim. it's going to be -- chris: federal court? >> federal court and an issue on the floor whether to expedite that process when they pass the bill. chris: mary jordan. >> sooners in five. ok. all right. maybe phillies in six. the yankees haven't won since 2000 and they're not going to win this time. chris: welcome to the show by the way. >> we're coming up on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall. for the moment, president obama has decided not to go. i think the right, conservatives, are going to criticize him for that and a lot of talk about ronald reagan
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and how his style of presidency compares to reagan's and right now in the white house they're trying to figure out how they can answer that. chris: i'm with the right on this one. when we come back, a big question, will hillary clinton keep on being the tough outspoken secretary of state she was in pakistan? be right back.
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chris: welcome back. this week hillary clinton was strikingly outspoken over in pakistan. >> pakistan doesn't have to take this money. let me be very clear. you do not have to take this money or any aid from us. >> i don't know any country that can stand by and look at a force of terrorists intimidating people and taking over large parts of your territory. if you want to see your territory shrink, that's your choice. chris: she also said pakistan leaders probably know where al qaeda is hiding. our big question, will hillary clinton keep up the tough talk in the third world the pay patrick moynihan did at the u.n. and jeanne kirkpatrick as well. katty. >> i hope so because it was great to watch her going and knock being heads together in pakistan. >> she's found a great role, bad cop. chris: wow. >> absolutely. and the white house is all behind it. >> it reminds me of what happened during the campaign. she found her voice and now that she's found it she will exercise it. chris: katty kay, howard fineman, marjordan and mark
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whitaker. that's the show. thanks for watching. see you here next week.
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The Chris Matthews Show
NBC November 1, 2009 10:00am-10:30am EST

News/Business. (2009) New. (CC)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Afghanistan 16, Washington 6, Us 6, Barack Obama 5, Pakistan 5, Florida 4, Mcchrystal 3, Obama 3, Clinton 3, Rubio 3, Taliban 3, Hbo 2, Mary Jordan 2, Iraq 2, Katty 2, Ronald Reagan 2, America 2, Harry Reid 2, Howard Fineman 2, Whitaker 1
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